Negotiating Border Regions: Spatial Planning Processes in Luxembourg and the Greater Region (NEBOR)
AFR postdoc grant (Fonds National de la Recherche Luxembourg)
Spatial planning describes the process and methods used to organize spatial representation of activities and structures, such as development and land use. It encompasses different spatial decision-making levels (scales), issues and actors. While traditional approaches to spatial planning see government agents and experts as main decision makers, more recent approaches such as the concept of governance employ a broader understanding of decision making that goes beyond government authority to incorporate “citizens in their many varied roles” (Dorcey 2004, 535). Governance comprises “the complex mechanisms, processes and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights and obligations, and mediate their differences” (UNDP 1997, 2-3). The project draws on this broad understanding of governance that includes formal and informal negotiations and power struggles between multiple interests, also referred to as ‘new modes of governance’. Further, it draws on institutional approaches rooted in the work of Thorstein Veblen and John Commons and further developed by Geoffrey Hodgson to emphasize the importance of these informal, non-regulatory and non-economic forces that inform, supplement or even replace formal decision making processes. Rather than reducing spatial planning to strictly regulated processes administered by different arms of government, the project proposes an analysis of spatial development that embraces a broader understanding of governance and incorporates a wide range of actors and processes.
Cross-border spatial planning in the Great Region faces challenges through multiple actors and structures involved that represent different geographic regions (horizontal dimension) and different spatial levels from the local to the national and international (vertical dimension). Due to their geographic location in respect to national centers, their domestic justification, and their dissected character, border regions often lack efficient and effective structures and processes that regulate, prescribe and enforce spatial planning processes. They are often legislative grey zones as regulations and procedures for spatial planning and development are patchy, unclear, not well enforced and often highly contested. As a result, land use decisions in border regions are often negotiated informally involving multiple interests such as local communities, environmental or economic interests and lobby groups that draw on a wide range of strategies. The concept of governance introduced above is particularly useful when analyzing spatial development in border regions that lack sufficient regulatory structures.
Objectives and research questions
The goal of the project is to analyze and explain how border regions are governed and what decisions are negotiated using the example of cross-border spatial development in the Greater Region. Challenges in the Greater Region arise from different and insufficient regulative structures that lead to multi-level and often uneven power struggles between multiple actors. The project is based on a broad notion of governance that includes informal negotiations and bargains between government and non-government actors at different spatial levels. Where regulations and formal procedures are insufficient or missing, informal decision making that can take the form of negotiations, alliances or disputes, replace or supplement formal processes. Informal negotiations and power struggles are often driven by interests that have only limited or no access to formal decision making processes. In the absence of an efficient regulative framework, processes and outcomes are then largely shaped by the ability of actors to enforce power. Actors can facilitate and block exchanges and cooperation to varying degrees depending on their power. Considering that border regions are characterized by power inequalities and hegemonies, trans-border governance can lead to unjust and unbalanced outcomes.
Specific research questions include:
- What regulations and procedures are in place in respect to spatial planning? What are the differences between spatial levels and different sides of the border?
- What forms does cross-border governance take? What are the driving forces?
- Who are the actors involved in decision making? What are their interests? How do they interact?
- How do actors gain and exercise power in respect to cross-border planning? Are there differences and imbalances between different regions and spatial levels?
- To what extent do actors intentionally make use of or profit from niches and opportunities induced by the absence of coherent cross-border regulatory frameworks?
- What are barriers and catalysts to good cross-border concertation and more coherent spatial development strategies?
Specific examples of planning decisions from Luxembourg and the Greater Region still need to be determined. Case studies could, for example, focus on housing and economic development such as big retail developments or the growing phenomenon of cross-border residential mobility.
The research will be based on interviews with actors engaged in decision making processes in the Greater Region. Interviews will be conducted face-to-face, where possible, recorded, transcribed, coded and analyzed according to identified categories.
NEBOR is part of BRIDGE (Border Regions in Different Geographic Espaces : Creating Dialogue Across Disciplines in Border Studies) (PI Harlan Koff) , a university-funded project with the aim to create dialogue across disciplines in the field of border studies analyzing contemporary shifts in power. BRIDGE brings together researchers from linguistics (cultural narratives such as language and literature), political sciences (political cooperation, human rights), and geography (spatial planning processes).